The City of Westminster is located in the centre of the Greater London area and is home to many of London’s iconic attractions including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as well as beautiful parklands such as Hyde Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens which can also be found in the area. With Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and Piccadilly all within close proximity, those that love to shop, eat out and take in a show will be in their element in Westminster.
Westminster gained city status in 1965 following the establishment of Greater London which comprises of the City of London together 32 London boroughs, however a community of Benedictine Monks lived in Westminster as early as the 960s.
With a church already on the site which is now the location of Westminster Abbey, during the 11th century it was Edward the Confessor who was responsible for the extensive redevelopment of St Peter’s Abbey, as well as the construction of Westminster Palace.
The Abbey was the first example of an English church to feature Norman Romanesque architectural styling, and Edward the Confessor had built upon the Abbey to serve as his final resting place where he was buried following his death in 1066. The coronation ceremony for William the Conqueror took place at the Abbey later that year, but it was during the reign of Henry III that construction of the present church took place, and since then all British monarchs have been crowned at Westminster Abbey with 16 royal weddings also taking place at the site.
Edward sought to develop the area with the purpose to house the Seat of the Government and in turn attract both power and wealth to Westminster. Today the City of Westminster is renowned for attracting many of the biggest names in commerce with the likes of BAE Systems, AstraZeneca, Rolls-Royce Group, BP and British American Tobacco choosing to locate their Headquarters within the area. With a concentration of media and creative organisations found in Soho, the Arts also strongly represented with Theatreland also found within the City of Westminster.
Due to its political significance Westminster has also been a focus in popular culture.
Films & TV
House of Cards (1990) is a BBC political thriller based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. Set in Westminster at the end of Thatcher’s time in office, Ian Richardson stars as the ruthless Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip who has set his sights on becoming Prime Minister regardless of the obstacles that may stand in his way.
RED2 (2013) stars Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with Frank Moses, a retired CIA Agent, on a mission to locate a missing nuclear device with the help of the reassembled team of elite operatives. Filming took place at the Central Hall in Westminster which was transformed to provide the backdrop of a Parisian hotel.
28 Days Later (2002) directed by Danny Boyle, stars Christopher Eccleston, Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris in this sci-fi horror in which a small group who have survived an devastating virus attack which has spread across the UK, seek sanctuary amidst the destruction and witness the breakdown of society. Scenes from this highly acclaimed film were shot in Westminster.
Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs was published in 2003 and is the first of a series of fictional novels which depict Winston Churchill. In Winston’s War Dobbs focusses on the issues surrounding the appeasement policies of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the subsequent fall of Chamberlain and the election of Churchill to replace him. Winston’s War and its sequel Never Surrender are both set in Westminster.
The Michael Dobbs political trilogy include House of Cards, To Play the King and The Final Cut, with the novels and subsequent television productions all proving hugely popular. Dobbs received much acclaim for this work and the insight into the political world which it offered both the reader and viewer.
Tom Hiddleston was born in Westminster on the 9th February 1981, the English actor is famed for his roles in Thor, War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and Only Lovers Left Alive. A popular star of stage and screen Hiddleston has received many accolades including BAFTA’s Rising Star Award and an Olivier Award for Best Newcomer in a Play.
Rachel Weisz was also born in Westminster on the 7th Mach 1970, and has starred in a number of blockbuster films including The Constant Gardener, Enemy at the Gates, Constantine and The Mummy. Married to Daniel Craig, star of James Bond, Weisz’s has also been the recipient of a Golden Globe, Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.
Carey Mulligan is a British actress who has starred in many period drama’s including Bleak House and Pride & Prejudice in which she played Kitty Bennett, as well as taking roles in The Great Gatsby, The Greatest and Inside Llewyn Davis. Born in Westminster on 28th May 1985 Mulligan has also received a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading for her portrayal of Jenny in An Education, as well as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Nominations.
Palace of Westminster
Also known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is the location of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, and is located on the banks of the River Thames. The Old Palace which once stood on the site was destroyed in 1834 the result of a fire, but had provided the residence of the Kings of London following its completion in the 11th century.
Queen Victoria was the first of the monarchs to reside at Buckingham Palace in 1837, although it was King George III who acquired what was then Buckingham House in 1761 to serve as a place of residence for Queen Charlotte. One the most famous buildings in the world, Buckingham Palace was further extended in the late 1900’s with additions including the East Front, the balcony of which is where the Queen and the Royal Family famously greet the gathering crowds.
Westminster Bridge is a Grade II listed structure that spans the River Thames linking Westminster to Lambeth, providing access for traffic and those on foot. Located between Hungerford Bridge and Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge is mainly green in colour reflecting the seats found in the House of Commons which is in close proximity. Opened in 1862 the arch bridge was the design of Thomas Page, and measures 252 metres in length and 26 metres in width, and is the oldest road bridge in central London.